Choral awards | University of Oxford
Magdalen choir
Magdalen College choir.
(Credit: Owen Rees)

Choral awards

Choral scholarships are awards given to talented singers who wish to develop their choral singing while at Oxford as a member of their college chapel choir. There are 14 colleges in Oxford which offer choral scholarships through the University’s choral scholarship scheme.

Please note that the 2020 audition process has been adjusted because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Details of this year’s arrangements are given below, under ‘How can I make an application’ and ‘How will the auditions be conducted in 2020’.

Choral Scholarship FAQs

What does a choral scholarship involve?

The duties of a choral scholar are to sing in the chapel choir of their college. They sing for choral services and concerts, and many of the choirs also undertake tours and make CD recordings. The commitments for choral scholars vary widely between colleges, since some choirs are more active than others. The three choral foundations – Christ Church, Magdalen and New College – offer the busiest choral experience, performing almost every day during term-time. At other colleges the choirs sing between one and four services per week during term. Many of the choirs are professionally directed, and others are led by the college organ scholars. Choral scholars are also expected to participate in the wider musical life of their college.

The scholarships carries an annual financial reward, the amount varying from college to college. In addition, at many colleges choral scholars receive funding for singing lessons, and many excellent singing teachers work with the Oxford choirs.

Which choral scholarships are available for 2021 and 2022 entry?

College

2021

2022

Key: S=Soprano, A=Alto, T=Tenor, B=Bass
Brasenose16 in total6 in total

Christ Church

2A, 1T, 1BA, T, B
ExeterS, A, T, B (numbers tbc)TBC
Keble8 in total8 in total
Magdalen
2A, 2T, 2B3A, 3T, 2B
Merton8 in total8 in total
New College
1T, 1B1A, 2T, 2B
Oriel6 in total6 in total
The Queen's College8 in total8 in total
St Edmund Hall

6 in total

6 in total
St Peter's8 in total8 in total
Somerville8 in total8 in total
University College6 in total6 in total
Worcester3S, 2A, 2T, 2BTBC

1 Brasenose does not accept candidates to read Music.

How to choose which choral scholarship to apply for?

You should consider what kind of choral experience you want while you are at Oxford. Decide whether you want to be a member of a choir that sings for a service almost every day or - at the other extreme - once a week. Think about whether you would like to be a member of a choir that has extra commitments beyond service singing, such as a regular schedule of concerts, CD recordings, tours and broadcasts.

Do I have to be at the college where I hold a choral scholarship?

Yes, you do. Some choirs also have vacancies for singers from other colleges, although these singers do not hold choral scholarships.

Can I study any subject and hold a choral scholarship?

Yes, you can, but it is important to check that all of the colleges which you intend to nominate on your choral scholarship application offer places to study your chosen subject. See which colleges offer your course.

The scholarship will last for the duration of your course. Those who take a year abroad as part of their course will retain their scholarship once they return to Oxford.

Can postgraduates apply for choral scholarships?

The choral scholarships scheme is primarily intended for undergraduates, who will be students at Oxford for three or more years. Those applying to undertake postgraduate study and who are interested in choral scholarships should contact the director of music (or chaplain at colleges where there is no director of music) of the college(s) in which they are interested. Postgraduate lay-clerkships are often available at several colleges. Details can be found on college websites.

How can I make an application?

You must complete and submit an online application form by 1 September in the year in which you are making your academic application to Oxford. Please note that you cannot apply for choral scholarships at both Oxford and Cambridge. On the form you can choose up to ten colleges in preference order, and we recommend that you nominate at least three.

You will also need to arrange for a reference about you as a singer to be sent to the admissions office of your first-choice college by 15 September. This reference can be provided by, for example, your director of music at school, the director of a choir in which you sing, or your singing teacher if you are having lessons. No academic reference should be sent at this time.

There are two parts to the entry procedure to Oxford for choral scholarship applicants: the choral audition (which takes place in late September) and the academic interview (in December – as part of the UCAS admissions process). The choral audition is to assess your vocal and musical aptitude, while for the academic interview you will join all the other candidates competing for places at Oxford.

How will the auditions be conducted in 2020?

Because of the COVID-19 situation, the auditions for choral awards will be conducted online in 2020. There are two elements to the auditions:

  1. You will submit a video recording of a prepared piece by 21 September 2020.
  2. There will be a sight-reading test, conducted online, on 21 or 22 September 2020. In this online audition, you will also be asked to sing an unaccompanied folksong, chosen by you from a specified list which will be posted on these pages soon, and circulated to applicants in early September.

Your prepared piece can be an accompanied work or an unaccompanied work, as you wish. Five minutes is the maximum duration. If your piece requires accompaniment but you will not be able to make a recording with piano in school or at home by 21 September because of the COVID-19 situation, please EITHER email Prof. Owen Rees (owen.rees@music.ox.ac.uk) so that a recording of the accompaniment can be sent to you, OR make use of a pre-recorded piano accompaniment such as those available at www.youraccompanist.com. Please note that a recording on a smart phone is perfectly acceptable. Sample recordings will be posted online in due course, showing adequate and inadequate sound quality.

On the application form, there is a space to inform us if you anticipate technical difficulties with participating in this year’s auditions, e.g. because you lack access to a smart phone for making a video recording of your audition piece, and/or because you do not have access to the internet in order to participate in an online audition.

When will I hear the result of the auditions?

A few days after the online choral audition you will receive an email telling you whether you have reached a standard to be considered for a choral scholarship at Oxford. Of course this refers only to the choral scholarship, since there has been no academic interview at this stage. You will then need to submit your UCAS application by the deadline of 15 October.

Remember that a successful choral scholarship audition does not automatically mean that you will be offered a choral scholarship. Although, as a result of that successful audition, you merit further consideration for a choral scholarship, you must now be considered on academic merit for your proposed course at Oxford. You should also note that there can be no guarantee of an offer of a choral scholarship, even if you are successful in gaining an offer of an academic place at an Oxford college: among the choral candidates retained from the September auditions by a particular college there may be a range of vocal ability; inevitably, colleges will fill their choral scholarship vacancies in December with the strongest singers who also gain an academic place at that point. It is only after the full admission procedure and academic interview in December that you will hear whether you have been offered a choral scholarship.

How to find out more about choral scholarships?

Enquiries about choral scholarships may be directed to the University Coordinator of the scheme, Prof. Owen Rees, owen.rees@music.ox.ac.uk, or to the Faculty of Music, academic.admin@music.ox.ac.uk.

Details of the choirs and choral scholarships at the colleges which participate in the scheme can be found here:

Brasenose, Christ ChurchExeterKebleMagdalenMertonNew CollegeOrielThe Queen’s CollegeSt Edmund HallSt Peter’sSomervilleUniversity College and Worcester.